Most any day I am in Jacksonville I will meet a homeless person. Some times I don't really know if the person is homeless or is running a scam. If it is a scam it is still a pretty hard way to survive. So, I usually try to take some time and talk to the person before I learn what he or she is asking for. One time coming from a grocery store I heard a voice behind me asking if I knew of a pastor he could talk to. Good scam if it was because how did he know I was a pastor. He showed me a book he bought with his last dollars on prayer. He was serious so we talked for a while about finding God's answers before he asked me for a ride to a hotel nearby where he was going to look for a job. If I couldn't take him then, some money for a taxi would help. I got him a taxi rather than have to tell my wife we were giving this forlorn individual a ride down the road. She has told me a number of times how easy a mark I am. She says I am a handout magnet. People know I will give them something. It seems she is right. I don't doubt I have been scammed many times.
We had some guests in town and we were on our way into Starbucks for coffee to help us make decisions about what we were going to do next. On the way in a man asked me if I could spare a penny or a nickel. What are you going to buy with just a penny or a nickel, I asked. A cup of coffee, he said. Come with me, I said, I will buy you one. He wouldn't look me in the eyes. Head down embarrassed or ashamed, I guess I would be too. On the street, I asked. Yes. How long? Couple years. What did you do before you hit the streets? I was a cook. Pretty good one? He looked at me. Yeah, he said, spicy food, a Spanish restaurant. In Southern Georgia, Pepe's or something like that. Any family close? No, no family.
He had several layers on and it was near 80. Hard soled black boots. Loose fitting jeans. Maybe 60 but it's hard to tell when someone has been living on the streets for long. He could have been younger. Do you want something to eat? No, I already ate. What size coffee, the barista asked. Small drip, he said. How about a medium I said. Ok, a medium. While he moved away to wait for his coffee a young, well dressed, woman who was in front of us and had already ordered tapped my shoulder and put a ten dollar gift card in my hand. Give this to him. Thank you, I said. Ok, she said, nice thing you are doing.